November 9, 2012


Moore's Law Is Becoming Irrelevant : The CEO of ARM says power-efficient chips for mobile devices will move into desktops, laptops, and servers. (Tom Simonite, November 9, 2012, Technology Review)

Companies like Apple and Samsung are the public face of the smartphone and tablet boom, but they all rely on ARM, the British company that licenses the energy-efficient processor designs required by mobile devices. Those chips were once considered significantly less powerful than the x86 processors found in desktops, laptops, and servers--a market dominated by Intel--but that gap appears to be closing. Microsoft is exploring a switch to ARM's technology for traditional computers, suggesting that ARM's technology will soon shape more than just mobile computing. ARM's CEO, Warren East, met this week with MIT Technology Review's senior IT editor, Tom Simonite.

For decades the computing business has been guided by Moore's Law, which predicts the rate of improvements in computing power. You have a different focus.

We have always been about efficiency, miles per gallon instead of top speed. That's actually what matters. Mobile is an easy example: you know that phone is constrained because it's battery powered.

But [even if] you can plug [a computer] into a socket, [efficiency] is a serious issue for the world. Servers use huge amounts of power. Data centers get located in strange regions of the world where it's naturally cooler. More and more of this mobile stuff [also] means more and more servers are required. We've actually changed the way people design servers [by making them smaller and lower-powered]. Instead of being restricted to big data centers where you know you can get massive amounts of power in, you can distribute these things. You could have many more servers. The analogy I would use is routers. Once upon a time, routers were effectively mini-computers in a massive box. Cisco managed to reduce that to things you have in your home. There's no reason it shouldn't go that way for servers.

Posted by at November 9, 2012 5:26 AM
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